Wexford People

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Bernie McDonagh faced illness with a remarkable determination and resilience


The late Bernie McDonagh

The late Bernie McDonagh

The late Bernie McDonagh

Mary Bernadette (Bernie) Mc Donagh (nee Dempsey) died peacefully at her home in Skeffington Street, Wexford on October 9 in the presence of family and her carer, Caroline.

She will be sadly missed by her sons David and Tony, her daughters, Theresa, Ruby and Jenny; her 19 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren; her brother Peadar, her two sisters Patricia and Josephine and all her extended family and friends.

Bernie was born in the Faythe, Wexford in 1934 to Peter and Rebecca Dempsey. She lost her mum at the age of 22 who had passed on many skills and indeed a lot of humility and compassion. She had 10 sisters and two brothers.

Bernie was a devout catholic and a woman of strong faith. She was the seventh straight daughter which gave her special powers to cure ringworm, a skill she successfully used many times.

Aged 18, she emigrated to London where she married and gave birth to her two sons. She and her husband returned to Ireland in the pre-supermarkets times of 1962 and settled in a rural area in Branchfield, Co Sligo where she started a country shop and a travelling shop. This involved travelling around north Sligo bartering with locals and delivering groceries - as they were called at the time.

In 1964 they moved to the village of Riverstown, Co Sligo and courageously renovated a large property where they opened a bar, singing lounge, shop, undertakers, mini bus hire etc. Here Bernie met lifetime friends, developed her business acumen and perfected the art of telling yarns.

In 1979 she separated, moved back to Wexford and started the next chapter of her life. She settled into Skeffington Street beside her brother Peadar who was a great help to her. She loved her immediate and extended family and Wexford town. She loved simplicity, no fuss and to be turned out well. She hated waste of any sort and loved to get a bargain. She used to have Elastic money as she could stretch it very far.

She adored her 19 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. She never forgot a birthday, anniversary or Christmas. Even up to the day she passed she was planning the Christmas and birthday presents for all of them.

Bernie has many friends that await her, especially her sisters Maudie and Kathleen whom she loved so much, the special friends that she met in Co Sligo and her beloved Jim Kehoe - a well known character in Wexford town. Jim was great friend up to his death eight years ago and they had a special bond. They spent many nights telling stories and socialising with their many friends. Bernie could sing the most beautiful songs but she always sang them in her own unique way - slightly out of tune. 'Bunch of Violets', 'Nobody's Child' and 'Danny Boy' were her favourites.

Bernie really missed Jim when he died. Her family find comfort in knowing they are together again and they expect that the Wexford Cheese, free range eggs and potatoes will be flowing once more.

Bernie had COPD - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - which led to a progressive depletion of her lung functions. Despite this ailment she demonstrated a remarkable determination and resilience. She was determined to live alone and be independent. She did this with the help of Dr Stephen Bowe and his assistant Geraldine. Managing this ailment was a challenge and one that required some drastic action on some occasions. There were numerous trips to specialists and hospitals with oxygen, reduced mobility etc. Three years ago her family, under the management of her daughter Jenny Firman and her husband Andy, undertook the complete renovation of her house. This allowed her to remain in her home until she passed away. She loved her new home which meant so much to her. She played with her chairlift as if it was a Disney ride. She had that devilish side and she hated stairs.

There was a trip to Rome fully loaded with oxygen etc that she took on with bravery and enthusiasm. She travelled around Rome in a wheelchair (or Honda 50 as she called it) and skipped every queue even to the top of St Peters Basilica beside the alter. She remarked that this was the closest she got to Jesus on earth. She also took on a trip to Lourdes with the same gusto.

During her illness her devout carers Patricia, Marie and Caroline were fantastic. At times when her appetite was not good she had a special diet of crisps and ice-cream that was smuggled in by them with clear instructions to say nothing. Marie and Caroline were her friends. Erik and Amy at Selskar Pharmacy were also a great support to her as were the nursing staff in the local HSE office and the staff at Wexford General Hospital. Her family wish to thank them all sincerely for their help and support.

May she rest in peace.

Wexford People